Many older people have unpleasant memories of probate proceedings. Only a few years ago, the process was time consuming and expensive, requiring repeated required court hearings. Thankfully, Michigan has made the entire process much simpler and far less painful, but, if beneficiaries are battling with each other, it can still be a trying and expensive process.
There are also steps you can take to both avoid probate proceedings and to make it simpler for your loved ones as they proceed through probate after your death.
Contrary to a commonly held belief, a will does not help you avoid probate.
It can make the probate process easier, however. It will also spell out exactly how you want your assets distributed.
For example, the person named in the will as personal representative may be appointed without a court hearing by filing the appropriate documents. In addition, the will allows you to name who will get your assets (in the absence of a will, state law determines who gets what), and it can allow you to make special provisions for young children.
If you die without a trust or will and have children under the age of 18, their assets will be held by a conservator subject to court supervisions until the age of 18. However, the assets – regardless of how much – will be turned over to them once they turn 18.
Many parents don’t like the idea of a child that age receiving a large inheritance all at once.
Instead, you can establish a trust within your will which will only take effect if your child is under a certain age at the time of your death. The trust can provide that the funds are to be used for the child and that the trustee can use the funds for a variety of purposes, i.e. the child’s education, buying a home, starting a business, etc. In that case, however, the decision about whether to use the funds will be in the hands of a trusted adult until the child reaches the age you have established in the trust.
Even individuals with small estates can benefit from a simple will. For example, if you have minor children, you can name who you want to act as their guardian if both parents die while the child is still a minor. This obviously provides you with some control over your child’s future and provides a smoother transition for the child at a time of loss.
Unlike a will, a trust can keep you out of probate, provided all your assets have been transferred into the trust. While they are more expensive to set up, they may result in cost savings to your beneficiaries.
At Delekta & Delekta P.C., during your initial consultation, we’ll discuss the various methods of planning with you, explain the difference in costs, and help you weigh the advantages and disadvantages so you can tailor your estate plan both to your budget and to your concerns.
Michigan has made it possible for individuals to not only name who will make medical decisions for them in case they cannot do so themselves, but also to indicate what you want in terms of life support. This power is conveyable regardless of whether the inability is short term, i.e., an unexpected turn of events while you are on the operating table, or long term.
Every adult should have a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care (also known as a patient advocate designation). In the absence of such a designation, your loved ones may be forced to seek appointment of a guardian through the probate court to consent to medical care when you are not able to do so. This could be difficult if your medical situation is time sensitive.
A General Durable Power of Attorney allows an individual to appoint a person to take financial action on their behalf, such as writing checks or signing off on a deed to convey property. We often prepare Power of Attorney for Finance documents alongside a Power of Attorney for Healthcare to ensure that both your medical and financial needs are able to be taken care of.
A Funeral Representative Designation is used to name a person to make Funeral Decisions for you. It can also be used to spell out exactly what you want for your funeral such as cremation or burial at a certain cemetery.
If you or someone you know in Michigan needs help with regards to an Estate Planning, call Delekta & Delekta today at 810-392-3834, or fill out our contact form and we will contact you. See also our frequently asked questions section.
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